Four years ago, one of my brother’s friends received a deep fryer for Christmas. Whoever thought it was a good idea to give a teenage boy and his friends—who at the time, amused themselves by building DIY flamethrowers and giant slingshots to catapult rotten fruit over houses—access to this kind of power had some serious misconceptions. Over the next few days (until the fryer caught fire), my brother regaled us with tales of the various food items that the boys sacrificed to the boiling oil: Oreos, Twinkies, Snickers—at one point, even a pig heart from our local Asian market. I remember being flabbergasted by the deep-fried potential of what seemed to be normal, household foods. I’d find myself wondering as I ate Goldfish or Lucky Charms what their oil-drenched counterpart would taste like, but always chided myself knowing that such deep-fried masterpieces were only figments of my imagination.
After two visits (one time simply wasn’t enough) to the State Fair of Texas a few weeks ago, I quickly discovered that I’ve been living a culinary lie and that my brother’s gastronomic experimentation was just the tip of the deep-fried iceberg.
“If you can think it, you can fry it” – State Fair of Texas Motto
Avocado. Reese’s. Butter. Hot Dogs. Cookie Dough. Oreos. Pickles. What do all these things have in common, you might be wondering? They have all been deep-fried, and I am proud, but also kind of ashamed—no, mostly ashamed, to say that I have eaten them all.
What really got me was the fried butter. I mean, come on—fried BUTTER. I imagine its creator waking up one morning and saying, “Never mind America’s obesity crisis, today I’m going to drop a fatty stick of margarine into a bubbling vat of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, just to see if I can make an unhealthy condiment become an even more unhealthy entrée!”
Obviously, after learning of its existence, trying this food item shot to the top of my bucket-list, but after eating it, I’m scared I’m going to kick the bucket that much sooner. My order came with four little golden balls of fried butter. The first three were actually not too shabby and really just tasted like warm buttered biscuits. The fourth ball is where things got serious. Expecting it to be like the others, I popped the whole thing into my mouth, but, when I bit into it, I realized the butter had not been absorbed into the dough like it had in the others. I was surprised with a mouth full of hot liquid butter. Not gonna lie, this was unpleasant.
Paula Dean’s Heaven
After eating the balls of fried butter, it felt really good to see a massive statue sculpted from butter—possibly even the same butter that was still sitting in my stomach! It made me feel more connected to my environment, like I was part of something bigger than myself, you know?
As I stared in awe at the resplendent buttered mustang statues, just one question came to mind: how in the heck did someone create this idea?! Was there a great clay shortage one year that forced artists to look to other mediums of expression? And who would’ve thought that Texas, one of the hottest states in the U.S. and the one voted* "Most Likely to Make You Melt" would be the state to experiment with such avant-garde material?! My realization that these glorious, deserving mustangs would never survive the heated journey to a museum deeply saddened me, and pushed me onward in my Fair exploration.
* Voted by me
Crikey! Is This a Barnyard or Safari?
My knowledge of Texan critters is very sparse. Still, I was surprised to encounter both giraffes and zebras in the petting zoo portion of the Fair. Walking into the exhibit, I thought I would be petting only animals originating from the Texan ecosystem—cows, goats, pigs, scorpions—and was elated to think that Texas had wild giraffes roaming about. After about half a second, I realized my mistake and was glad I hadn’t voiced my thoughts to anyone. Yet here I am voicing them now. Oops.
Apparently, Big Tex is the mainstay of the Texas State Fair. Quite honestly, I’m surprised he wasn’t made out of butter…or maybe he is, on the inside? After failing on my first visit to take a picture with the big guy—and if you didn’t take a picture, it didn’t happen—I made sure that he was the first stop on my next visit. He’s such a gem, and quite photogenic, if I do say so myself.
The State Fair of Texas was a buttery affair to remember, and I look forward to returning next year with an appetite. First on the food list for next year: fried bubble gum.
Chelsea is a Level 5 improv student at the DCH Training Center. She is obsessed with music of the 60s & 70s and her vices include vanilla lattes and Swedish Fish. You can check out more of Chelsea’s thoughts and ponderings HERE!
(Butter sculpture photo credit: Kevin Brown/State Fair of Texas)
By Mike Corbett Look, we all could use a break after the last week, right? We lost a comedy genius in Robin Williams, under incredibly disheartening circumstances, parts of Missouri look like a warzone every night thanks to overly militarized police, and now, unfortunately, top it all off, we’ve lost the voice of Saturday Night Live, with the passing of Don Pardo. Really just a rough week all around, and certainly not one that is generating easily mocked news stories.
So, in lieu of my usual current events focused piece, I’d like to instead take this article in a completely ribald direction and examine one of the great mysteries I’ve come across in my life time. The year was 2012, I’d been living in Dallas for six months, and was attending the highly regarded Texas State Fair for the first time. I had heard many stories about the fair, and what a spectacle it was, so I had to see it for myself. Before I even set foot in Fair Park, its reputation for being a spectacle was confirmed with the sad passing of Big Tex. I was sure nothing could top a giant mechanical cowboy fire, but I went attended anyways, to see what other wonders the fair might hold. It didn’t take long for those wonders to be revealed, and just an hour into my trip, while walking through the Midway, I came across it…
That is, as far as I can tell, a carnival ride featuring a massive airbrushed picture of Cameron Powe, the character Nicolas Cage portrayed in 1997 blockbuster Con Air. Now, even as an avid Nicolas Cage fan, I could not believe that any carnival ride manufacturer would have made a Con Air themed ride, even at the height of that film’s popularity. Upon further inspection, you can tell that it is definitely not themed after Con Air, and in fact, the giant sized Cameron Powe is the only reference to the movie. Look closely and you can see that the rest of the ride seems to be themed in a Heavy Metal-esque sci-fi fashion, making the inclusion of a massive air brushed Nicolas Cage even stranger.
Years have passed since that visit to the fair, but questions regarding that ride still haunt me. Was Nicolas Cage just a random inclusion into the ride’s mural? Was the artist just given free reign, and happened to love his work? Or did someone give him very clear instructions to airbrush a ten foot tall Nicolas Cage on the side of a carnival ride? If that’s the case, are there others out there? Is there a Himalaya out in some parking lot carnival proudly displaying a torch wielding Benjamin Franklin Gates from National Treasure? Maybe there’s one of those lame motorcycle carousels featuring artwork from Cage’s star turns in Ghost Rider and Drive Angry! The possibilities are only constrained by Nic’s IMDB page.
I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I’m desperate to find out. I love Mr. Cage’s work the same way he himself loves pachinko, but I know when I’ve been bested. If there’s a Cage megafan out there that has devoted his life to airbrushing pictures of his idol into seemingly random places, then I would like to tip my hat to him. From a safe distance of course; Cage stalkers have already proven to be a particularly…eccentric lot, I really don’t want to get to close. If this Cage loving airbrush artiste does exist, I’d also love to see his van, which I’m sure is emblazoned with something like this:
As a reminder, the Texas State Fair kicks off September 26th and runs through October 19th, just down the street from Dallas Comedy House at Fair Park. You can see this ride and eat anything from a fried corn dog to a fried boot during these three amazing weeks.